Head Coach Debbie Brown and  the Notre Dame volleyball team are set to open the season against Bowling Green at 7 p.m. on August 26

Incoming Freshman Class Ranked Among Nation's Top Five By Two Publications

July 26, 2006

The seven student-athletes who will comprise the freshman class for the University of Notre Dame women’s volleyball team this season – MB Tara Enzweiler (Raleigh, N.C./Cardinal Gibbons H.S./Triangle VBC), OH/OPP Megan Fesl (Arlington Heights, Ill./John Hersey H.S./Sports Performance VBC), OH Christina Kaelin (Louisville, Ky./Assumption H.S./KIVA), MB Kim Kristoff (Carmel, Ind./Brebeuf Jesuit Prep School/Team Indiana VBC), S Jamel Nicholas (Pittsburgh, Pa./Pine-Richland H.S./Renaissance VBC), DS/L Colleen Nolan (Vernon Hills, Ill./Stevenson H.S./Sky High VBC), and OH/OPP Serinity Phillips (Valley Center, Calif./Valley Center H.S./Vintage VBC) – have earned high praise before even stepping on campus, as two publications have ranked the group among the five best in the country. Volleyball magazine has Notre Dame third on its list of top recruiting classes appearing in the August issue, while PrepVolleyball.com recently placed the Irish fifth on a similar list. These cap off the accolades received by the group, which features four PrepVolleyball.com high school All-Americans, three Volleyball magazine Fab 50 selections, and two Gatorade State Players of the Year for volleyball.

Volleyball magazine listed the Irish behind only Penn State and Texas in its annual list of top recruiting classes, saying “Fighting Irish coach Debbie Brown addressed a number of needs with this class. Kaelin is one of the top recruits overall in the 2006 group, while Fesl earned high marks among another strong crop of Illinois prep products. Notre Dame also stayed local with the addition of middle blocker Kristoff. Kaelin, Fesl and Kristoff were all Volleyball Fab 50 picks. Kaelin was a first-team Mizuno/Volleyball All-American, while Fesl made the second team.”

In the seven years since Volleyball began producing such a list, Notre Dame has been mentioned five times. This is the highest ranking for the Irish, surpassing the fifth-place listing of 2002, achieved by the class that just graduated in 2006.

Fesl, Kaelin, and Kristoff were on Volleyball’s Girls Fab 50 list of the top high school seniors in the nation, announced in April. It is the first time since 1997 (Denise Boylan, Christi Girton, and Jo Jameyson) – and just the third time ever – that Notre Dame has had three Fab 50 picks in the same class. The other instance was the 1994 group of Angie Harris, Jaimie Lee, and Carey May. The Irish are one of only five schools that have three or more on the Fab 50 list, joining Penn State (four), Pepperdine (three), Texas A&M (three), and Wisconsin (three). Notre Dame has now had 23 players earn Fab 50 designation since 1990, including at least one in 11 of the last 13 years.

PrepVolleyball.com had the top five classes (in order) as Penn State, Texas, California, Arizona, and Notre Dame, and it said, “You could make a case for Notre Dame’s class being as high as No. 2, based on the three impact hitters coming to South Bend, though some college coaches commented that the absence of a Lauren Brewster-type of impact blocker in the middle kept the Irish from addressing their needs as well as the schools listed above them. Regardless, whenever you’re top five, you’ve done an outstanding job and Notre Dame will be thrilled to run out its trio of attackers for the next several years. All three – Fesl, Kaelin and Phillips – are smart, hard-working, physical athletes who compete relentlessly and know how to score. Fesl has long arms and a tremendous snap, Kaelin hits angles no other player in this class can and Phillips is explosive vertically. Irish fans will love Nicholas. She is, in many ways, a clone of current starting setter Ashley Tarutis: a great leader and communicator with all of the intangibles necessary to help a team succeed. Kristoff has been hampered by injury but, when healthy, is a super quick dynamic middle who is tremendous off of one foot. Enzweiler is a heady, steady front court player while Nolan, from a strong Chicago club, adds depth in the back court.”

Five of Notre Dame’s incoming freshmen were listed among the PrepVolleyball.com Top 150 Senior Aces (the ranking of the top high school senior volleyball players in the country, based on both prep and club action), with four of them – Kaelin (9th; first among Kentucky natives; ND’s highest-ranked player since the list began in 2002), Fesl (14th; first among players from Illinois), Phillips (21st), and Kristoff (86th) – listed in the top 100, while Nicholas was in the group of honorable mention that made up the final 50. Only three other schools – Nebraska, Penn State, and Texas – could match the Irish in having a pair of the top 15 on that list, while only the Nittany Lions join ND in having three in the top 25. The Senior Aces list is in just its fourth year, and Notre Dame’s highest-ranked recruit prior to this class had been rising sophomore OH Mallorie Croal (Villa Park, Calif./Mater Dei H.S.), who was 32nd in 2005.

Fesl, Kaelin, Kristoff, and Nicholas were listed as PrepVolleyball.com High School All-Americans, it was announced in January. The list features just 150 players and was described in the following way by John Tawa, who did the compiling: “To be a High School All-American, you must have made a massive impact on your high school team. `Massive’ is subjective, but at a minimum, it requires that you be the best player on your team and one of the top 3-5 players in your state, regardless of class – except for volleyball hotbeds like California, Texas, Indiana and Illinois, where you must be among the 10 best high school players, regardless of class.”

Kaelin (Kentucky) and Nicholas (Pennsylvania) also were named the Gatorade Players of the Year for their states in girls’ volleyball. State winners were selected not only for their outstanding athletic performance, but for academic achievement and individual character.

For more information on Notre Dame’s incoming freshmen, see the original signing release at http://und.cstv.com/sports/w-volley/spec-rel/110905aab.html.

Notre Dame fans will have much opportunity to get an early peak at this year’s rookies, as the Irish will open the season with five home matches in an eight-day span, beginning on Saturday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. (ET) against Bowling Green.